A few weeks ago, a friend of mine commented on the fact that I hadn’t written anything about the Annoyed Librarian being paid to blog for Library Journal. That was more a result of my having kidney stones and being in excruciating pain than my not wanting to comment on it. But also, I really didn’t have strong feelings about this other than the fact that I think Library Journal is a day late and a dollar short in capitalizing on the Annoyed Librarian. AL was big 12-20 months ago and since last winter has really lost her/his/their edge. It seemed to me that the AL had lost their motivation to blog and was doing it out of obligation more than out of inspiration. Perhaps that’s what happens when someone so “edgy” becomes mainstream. I think Library Journal is smart to capitalize on controversial or popular bloggers, but I can think of many blogs that would have been better to co-opt to secure long-term traffic increases. I’m sure they got a lot of traffic with the initial controversy (there’s no such thing as bad press if it gets you more traffic), but I think most people feel like AL is kind of 5 minutes ago and the gains will likely not be lasting.
Now there’s a new controversy regarding the AL and this one has gotten a lot of my very level–headed friends in a lather. I don’t blame them. Apparently, the Journal of Access Services has printed an entire issue written by the Annoyed Librarian. For someone who has gone through the onerous process of submitting material to peer-reviewed journals (and probably modifying it one or more times to meet their rigid criteria), it must be pretty aggravating to see a pseudonymous blogger get an entire issue to pontificate in the same way she/he/they do on their blog. People who’ve had their work rejected by a peer-reviewed journal must be seething over this and I can hardly blame them. I don’t write for peer reviewed journals since I’m not tenure-track and I actually want my work to be read. So this doesn’t make me particularly annoyed. To me, it’s just another reminder that peer-reviewed journals are completely irrelevant to me. So many peer-reviewed journals publish absolutely useless studies that were primarily done for the sake of getting the authors tenure. But at least I felt they had some sort of quality standards. I didn’t think they kowtowed to “celebrity” over substance. To pull a stunt like this reeks of desperation and while more people may look at that issue than have ever looked at all of the issues of the Journal of Access Services combined, I would guess that the net effect will be negative as people lose respect for this journal.
So, again, I am definitely not the Annoyed Librarian, but neither am I particularly annoyed about all this stuff. I was already well-aware of the fact that traditional media was becoming increasingly irrelevant and I’d say that there are few clearer signs of that than its co-optation of the Annoyed Librarian.
If you want to see a really amusing take on the whole Annoyed Librarian kerfuffle, check out Steve Lawson’s one-act play/post.
Three conclusions about AL I’ve made:
1. AL is a member of ALA, and regularly attends Council sessions.
2. AL has at least 15 years on me… possibly 20.
3. AL has some serious pull in this profession. A whole issue of a peer-reviewed journal, a regular column in a “popular” magazine, and they let AL stay anonymous?
One reason to be annoyed is for the sake of those in tenure-track positions. If you are depending on having your research published by a certain date/within a certain time period, what this journal did is particularly heinous. They have delayed publication of legitimate peer-reviewed work. This could affect someone’s tenure case.
Additionally, they have wasted precious resources – scholarly publishing certainly isn’t all that flush with money – on this issue. It is insulting. The issue isn’t that it is all the work of AL – the issue is the journal’s editors’ casual disregard for their audience and the ethos of their journal.
You are, however, correct about peer reviewed library science journals.
That one-act play is made of win. I consider it the definitive and final say in the matter.
K8, I agree that it’s pretty obnoxious what the journal did and I think they will lose a lot of credibility over it. I’m not too up in arms because 1) I’ve never been a fan of peer-reviewed journals and part of me is a little amused that a peer-reviewed journal would do something that so blatantly illustrates its irrelevance to professional practice and 2) we don’t subscribe to that journal at my library. If we did subscribe, I might be annoyed that my library was spending money on it (then again, I’m sure we spend a lot of money on a lot of junk already).
Honestly, there are a lot of things in the profession (budget cuts being a big one on my mind) that are more worth getting worked up over than some journal doing something stupid, wasting precious resources and preventing librarians needing tenure from publishing their stuff.
Meredith, I too am “post-AL.” I can’t quite believe a journal published an article by her, but then, I don’t bother with LIS journals anyway.
Btw, some LIS prof out there (I’m contemplating saying who he is — should I?) has been telling people *I* am AL. I mean… I am so not AL. I’ve heard the stuff about you being AL and just rolled my eyes. I agree AL must have some pull. But I’ve been a little too busy on many levels to worry about AL or much else beyond what’s in my own basket…
I think the people who are likely going to be most hurt by this – I haven’t seen mentioned. Those who have published in the Journal of Access Services or are on board to do so and didn’t realize that their work is now tied to a journal with this reputation. While we can debate whether it should be this way, the reality at least right now is that the “quality” of the journal counts in addition to being published – at least in some promotion/tenure systems. The “value” of this journal on some peoples’ vitae has just declined quite a bit.
Great point, Lisa. It was extremely irresponsible of the editors to do something that could easily damage the reputation of the journal for all the people who’ve published in it or will publish in it. From what I’ve heard, folks on the editorial board weren’t even made aware of it until they saw the issue themselves. That’s just crazy.
Karen, glad to hear I’m not the only one “over it.” 🙂 I’d NEVER even considered that you could be the Annoyed Librarian — it seems to me that the person is much more mired in academia (and not a tiny academic library like I am) than you are.
Yes, I am so not mired in academia, and it is good. 🙂
I agree on the journal losing cred this way. It really makes a mockery of “peer review,” particularly if this got pushed past the editorial board without their knowledge and approval.
I agree that it makes a mockery of peer review in *this journal*. I’m not we can extrapolate beyond that.
I’m also a bit wary of generalizing about the state of peer-reviwed LIS journals. Sure, there are some bad and/or useless studies, but there are also a lot of valuable studies, too. Some journals publish more dross than others, too.
Maybe we need to start talking about raising the bar for quality in our profession.
I’m not familiar with this journal, but many Haworth press journals are not peer reviewed. They like to publish thematic issues so they can also sell them as edited volumes. They also like to publish lots and lots, which means quality control is not always a major consideration. Judging “peer review” on the basis of Haworth’s practices is not fair to peer review. After all, this is the publisher that declined to publish an issue of the Journal of Homesexuality because some right wing homophobes sent them a dozen e-mails or so. (They finally published it, after a fracas, but without an article on the ancient Greeks because it was so vile and filthy. Peer review? I think not.)
I’ve had tenure for over a decade and I still publish from time to time in peer reviewed journals. It seems a little silly to dismiss peer reviewed journals as crap because it’s not the kind of writing you like to do and imply that the only motive of those who write for them is self-interest.
Barbara, I don’t think what I wrote is any worse than dismissing what someone wrote as “silly” (especially when you’ve misrepresented what I wrote). I never said that peer reviewed journals are crap — what I said is that so many of the journals publish research studies that were primarily written for the purpose of getting tenure and it’s pretty obvious when that is the case when they aren’t written in a way that could inform practice and/or help others. There are some great articles in peer-reviewed journals that have really influenced me, but not enough, and if the journals don’t have a strong commitment to publishing quality studies that might actually inform practice, then they are pretty irrelevant to me. I never said that all people who write for peer-reviewed journals do it solely to get tenure, but plenty do. I never said peer-reviewed journals were bad because they weren’t written the way I write; I said they were bad because they publish too much junk.
Sorry if I wrote hastily and crabbily. But “I actually want my work to be read” and “completely irrelevant to me” must have flipped some crabby-switch. Also I possibly hadn’t had enough coffee.
No problem. It was a snarky post, but I certainly didn’t mean that every article in every peer-reviewed journal was crap. But you have to admit, if you want to write something that will get read by a lot of people, peer-reviewed journals are probably not the best bet.
I make sure the publication agreement when I choose a journal allows posting them to the web, which improves discoverability. But in the universe of librarians, only a fraction will be interested in any one article because there are so many different things to be interested in and only so much time.
But then I write fiction, too, which is also not the best way to be read by a lot of people, unless you’re Stephen King.
That’s very smart to do and I wish more librarians would ensure that they get similar terms when they get an article published. I have that sort of agreement with American Libraries and have just been incredibly lazy about posting my old columns to my blog. Your comment reminded me that it’s something I should probably get to soon.
Well spoken! And no, Meredith Farkas is not the AL, I promise…